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North Texas cities ready for Final Four festivities

By Stephen Hawkins, Associated Press
April 1, 2014 at 11 p.m.

ARLINGTON - Welcome to the NCAA Final Four in North Texas.

Enjoy the party and all the festivities in Dallas and in Fort Worth's Sundance Square. But if you are going to the national semifinals Saturday or the championship game Monday night, those will be played about halfway between the two downtown areas.

The games are at the Dallas Cowboys' billion-dollar showplace stadium, which is in Arlington - a growing city of about 375,000 people that is in the same county as Fort Worth - and not in the Big D.

"It's always been kind of an ongoing saga about Cowboys Stadium, or AT&T Stadium, being in Dallas, and we kind of have worked on that pretty hard," Robert Cluck, Arlington's mayor since 2003, said with a chuckle. "When we first opened the stadium, you bet it bugged me. ... I kept calling CBS, ABC and anybody who did it, and reminded them where it was, and pretty much now people know."

Everybody should considering all the big events in that area just off Interstate 30, the busy road between the Dallas and Fort Worth downtowns that are about 35 miles apart.

The nearly 5-year-old stadium has already hosted a Super Bowl and an NBA All-Star Game. The first major college football championship game in the new postseason system will be played there in January, and the World Series has twice been at the Texas Rangers' ballpark about a block away in the shadow of the Six Flags over Texas amusement park.

Arlington officials are well-versed in managing large events such as the Final Four, which is expected to have its highest attendance ever this weekend with about 80,000 people.

Anyone who goes to the site of the previous Final Four in North Texas might find a Bruce Springsteen or Tim McGraw concert. But no basketball games, or even the arena where Louisville won the 1986 national title.

The lot where Reunion Arena stood in downtown Dallas is the site of the three-day March Madness Music Festival. The popular indoor interactive Bracket Town event will be at a nearby convention center.

Many Florida and Kentucky fans are already familiar with the game-day setup. And Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie also should know his way around since he was born in Dallas, and played 16 games for the NBA's Dallas Mavericks during the 1997-98 season.

At least there are no worries this week about ice or snow, like then and what plagued the Super Bowl week three years ago.

"It's a great market. First of all, it's easily accessible, and people can get here easily," Wellman said of North Texas. "You've got a great venue in this stadium and it is an area that has successfully hosted these types of events in the past. So I think you're going to see this market used an awful lot in the future by the NCAA for these types of events."



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